Student group Drive Thru Therapy finds space for musical creativity

Student band Drive Thru Therapy first connected musically on an arrangement of the song “Graceland Too” by Phoebe Bridgers. (Courtesy of Drive Thru Therapy)

Sitting in the grassy yard outside their dorm last fall, Max Davey PO ’25, Matilda Kirk PO ’25 and Nicole Van Brugge PO ’25 felt their musical arrangement needed something more. The trio had played with the vocal harmonies and their guitars, creating their own version of the song “Graceland Too” by singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers.

“That would sound so good with drums,” Kirk had thought as the three of them harmonized outside the Gibson dorm.

So the band sought out another member of their sponsor group, Aaron Morgan PO ’25, to add a layer of percussion to their rendition. The four of them had planned to meet in the Walker basement practice room in order to gain access to a drum set.

In the hours leading up to this jam session, Morgan had spoken to Hazel Escott PO ’25 and found out that “Graceland Too” was her favorite song. He invited her to come and play her cello that night with the rest of the band.

The five of them met that night and spent the rest of the fall semester practicing “Graceland Too”, simply out of excitement to perform together. At the time, they had no plans in mind for the band or its growth.

“We didn’t really know where we were going,” Kirk said.

Quarantines, online classes and the impossibility of meeting in the same room had prevented many musicians from being able to play together in this way last year. This year, now back on campus and meeting other passionate musicians, many 5C students have found time to create music again in the company of others.

“I think it’s because during COVID everyone missed playing music with [other] people, and now there is the possibility of [play music with others]”, Escott said. “I’m [also] in chamber music now because I missed playing with people, and it’s amazing [to be playing with people again].”

The five Pomona freshmen met frequently during the first semester, carving out space for each other to play together. Venturing beyond “Graceland Too”, the band began arranging other covers in the early weeks of the second half. They seem to especially enjoy adding their own style and ideas to songs like Lizzy McAlpine’s alternative indie ballad “Apple Pie,” as well as pop princess Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”

“We have totally different tastes in music,” Kirk said. “It’s really cool because it could be quite boring if we all wanted to play the same thing, but you have to find a way to please everyone, and you end up with a really varied sound. [assortment of songs].”

And the band always comes up with new songs to play.

“If you look at our group chat,” Van Brugge said, “every two seconds someone [suggests] this song or this song and this song.

During the second semester, the group also began experimenting with originals, which they wrote collectively, as well as songs that individual members contributed to the group. They played for the sake of experimentation, creativity and being together.

Then the band landed a gig through their sponsor at the Benton Museum of Art’s weekly event. Art After Hours. With a concrete event to train for, the band got to work on a setlist – and a band name.

They went through a long list of potential names before deciding on Drive Thru Therapy. They thought it sounded good and, in retrospect, the name refers to what they hope to deliver to their fans: a feel-good experience in a short time.

The March 10 event, hosted by the Benton, consisted of a market for student artists to sell their artwork, and drive-through therapy set up in the middle of the museum courtyard, playing a mix of blanket arrangements and originals. And, of course, the band played “Graceland Too,” the song that brought them together. They gathered a large crowd, who sang and danced along with the setlist and cheered on the performers.

“[A friend told us]”that gig was actually my therapy,” Morgan said.

Although already popular among Friends, Drive Thru Therapy reached a larger group of students through their Benton performance.

“[Pomona as a school] has a really accessible way for students to play music,” Davey said. “We had the Art After Hours gig, and no one who booked us had any idea who we were or what we were doing, and they had never heard us play before. So this total, blind faith is so important for student groups.

Members of Drive Thru Therapy perform on stage.
The band performed their first show on Benton’s Art After Hours series on March 10. (Courtesy of Drive Thru Therapy)

The group noted that spaces like Benton’s Art After Hours event allow room for musical experimentation – something other parts of the college seem to lack.

“I think it’s amazing that they have a space for [student bands] here,” Escot said. “I think as a school, the music department at Pomona College lacks creativity. So, I think having this…opportunity really complements the lack of creativity in the music department.

Morgan also expressed some frustrations with the music department. Only people enrolled in music classes can use the department’s drums, but the classes are so impacted that Morgan couldn’t even enroll. The student-run Pomona College Music Coalition, located in Walker’s basement, provided the band with access to both drums and space to play.

Lined up to play an event on April 14, which was canceled due to high cases of COVID-19, Drive Thru Therapy has yet to play another gig. However, they continue to meet in Walker’s basement a few times a week to train together. Escott and Kirk have new originals to debut, and the band’s band chat maintains a running list of songs to curate. The band can’t wait to perform again after their experience at the Benton.

“It was really great to provide entertainment, to provide a fun Thursday night,” Davey said.

Amid the frustrations of not having enough space to play – whether due to COVID-19 or other limitations – Drive Thru Therapy has created a space of its own. True to their group name, they provide a sense of pleasure and relief as quickly as it takes for a food order to reach the takeout window.

Editor’s note: Max Davey PO ’25 is a news editor for TSL.

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